Fostering Coexistence: Pollinator Investigations in Ge Alfalfa
Plant And Animal Genetic Resources Preservation Research Unit
2013 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
With the deregulation of genetically engineered Round Up Ready alfalfa (RRA) in February 2011, there is an urgent need to complete and implement coexistence strategies to protect the export seed market and other alfalfa markets that are sensitive to the adventitious presence (AP) of transgenic traits. Extended conversations with alfalfa producers and breeding companies have led to the following objective: to examine how leaf cutter and alkali bees transmit RRA across commercial seed fields and how that will impact proposed harvest strategies that separate seed for non AP- and AP- sensitive markets and to examine the persistence of RRA pollen in honeybee hives.
1b.Approach (from AD-416):
This project will focus on the Walla Walla valley in Washington. We will be tracking the flight of leaf cutter amd alkali bees across RRA seed and hay fields and using the RRA trait as a marker to determine flight distance. Honey bee hives will be placed in RRA fields then removed and hives sampled for the presence of RRA pollen over time. This work will be done in Othello, WA.
This progress contributes to Objective 4 of the parent project: “Characterize landscape-scale transgene flow for alfalfa, and apply that knowledge to develop mitigation strategies for maintaining genetic purity of alfalfa germplasm accessions and for commercial production of alfalfa hay and seed stocks for genetically engineered-sensitive markets.” This agreement supports an extension entomologist of Washington State University (WSU), who is directing the research of two graduate students who are focused on understanding how leaf cutter and alkali bees transmit Roundup-Ready Alfalfa (RRA) transgene across commercial seed fields and how that will impact proposed harvest strategies that separate seed for non AP- and AP- sensitive markets. In 2013 techniques were developed to identify the RRA transgene using PCR methods on bee pollen. Leaf cutter bee domiciles were placed strategically along a gradient in three fields in Walla Walla County and three fields in Canyon County and pollen provisions was collected after three weeks. Seed samples were also obtained from eight plants adjacent to established domiciles. Pollen and seed will be tested for the RRA transgene. This project will generate useful information for develop strategies to protect the genetic integrity of our alfalfa germplasm collection.